On the subject of same sex marriage, everyone knows that the Catholic Church in Scotland takes the view that marriage is uniquely the union of a man and a woman, and that same sex unions should not be regarded as or called marriage.
This may be anathema to many students because they may think that if people love each other, they should be allowed to call their union a marriage if they want to, as a matter of equality. So they will see the Catholic Church as nasty and unloving and intolerant and homophobic, etc.
According to the most recent statistics, supplied by the National Office for Statistics Integrated Survey on Household Attitudes 2010-2011, 1.5% of adults in the United Kingdom describe themselves as gay/lesbian or transsexual. Also the number of civil partnerships in Scotland has declined year-on-year from a high of 1,074 in 2006 to 545 in 2010, while the number of marriages over these same years has remained fairly steady at 28,000-30,000.
Do these figures indicate that there is enough demographic justification to disturb the settled understanding of marriage which has sustained and underpinned civilisation for at least the last two millennia and probably longer? I don’t think so.
Whatever variations there have been in patterns of marriage in the various civilisations and over the millenia, never anywhere at any time (till now) has marriage been understood as being between two persons of the same sex. Does that not tell us that we are perhaps going in the wrong direction? Does that not tell us we are losing our bearings as a civilised society if we recognise same sex marriage?
Some people argue that it is inevitable that same sex marriage will be introduced, so better not to oppose it. However, only ten nations in the world (and some American States) have so far introduced it. Some, like Hungary, have taken steps to bolster their country’s constitution to bar same sex marriage. And it looks like there will be the mother of all battles in the USA over the Defence of Marriage statute.
So no, it is not inevitable that countries will introduce same sex marriage, and we certainly do not have to do so in order to be numbered as a progressive enlightened democracy. It would be far more enlightened and progressive to defend and promote the traditional and agreed understanding of marriage.
All studies show conclusively that it is best for children to have a mother and a father who are married to each other. If it is best for children, it is best for society. If it is best for society, is that not the progressive and enlightened thing to do?
The settled and universal understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage is that it is a union of a man and a woman which by its very nature is designed for the mutual good of the spouses and to give the children who may be born of that union a mother and a father.
For obvious reasons, same sex unions just cannot do that, and so should not be called marriage. I wish to say very clearly that to make this argument is not homophobic bigotry, but is simply the defence of marriage. To call people homophobic bigots is just a highly manipulative way of closing down the argument and intimidating opponents.
The State recognises same sex unions in the form of civil partnerships which have all the rights and privileges of marriage except the right to be called a marriage. If people of the same sex want to upgrade their partnership, why not call it something like a solemn covenant of life and love. Since some religious bodies appear to want to solemnise same sex unions, they could even celebrate it in a religious context, although certainly not in the Catholic Church.
Do what they want, call it what they wish, but don’t call it marriage because it’s not marriage.
The Right Reverend Philip Tartaglia is the fourth Roman Catholic Bishop of Paisley, Scotland.